Pruning for a Colorful Future

Colored bark shrubs, like red and yellow twig dogwood (Cornus) bring bright color to our winter landscapes. But the best showing by these ornamental shrubs comes with a late winter or early spring pruning. Here are some tips to help you prune these shrubs now to get the best impact next winter!

Pruning now is easiest as the difference between old branches and new is more obvious. As the spring moves on and the shrubs leaf out, the bark becomes darker on all the stems, changing to a brown or red brown.

Look your colorful dogwoods over now, pruning back grey, brown or black limbs now. These are the oldest parts of the shrub and will no longer give you the bright color you want next winter. Prune the oldest branches right to the base, only leaving 6-12”. If the shrubs have been neglected for a long time, limit the pruning to only 1/3 of the whole plant, so it can successfully regenerate. Stagger you pruning all around the shrub so new growth is balanced all around the plant. Using this process, the plant will be entirely rejuvenated in three years, be easier to maintain, and give you a colorful addition to your winter garden.

For more detail, and a bit of humor, read Winter Pruning: The Rantings & Ravings of a Pruning Freak, posted by the Chicago Botanic Garden